by Lily Cat Woodbury | Voices | Fall 2018
Fear, violence, and destruction are pieces of our heteropatriarchal society as normal as eating, sleeping, drinking, and fucking. Pleasure can be reclaimed. Controlling fear forces it to subside.
Embodying a submissive and dominant relationship is an inventive process. Re-framing power forces it to transmute out of socially constructed violent dynamics which often surround sex.
Lights up, I turn on the salt and lava lamp and my bedroom glows pink. I control the lights like I control my cum slut. My pretty sub has begged me to construct marks of love all over their body. I like to call my sub my “little bitch.” I like to call my sub “baby.” I like to call my sub “my lover.” I like to call my sub “QT.” I like to call my sub my “cum slut.” My little bitch and I are cultivating deep understanding of the importance of sexual communication, and our sexuality in our relationship, based on submission and dominance. We have created these names to initiate a relationship we can define for ourselves; outside of the binaries forced upon hetero-cis-normative couples. We occupy a place of in between that can be infinitely constructed around us, by us, for us.
My sub likes to follow the rules, which we establish together. My sub calls me their bitch. My sub calls me their lover. My sub calls me sexyboy. Our relationship uses power play, constructed by reciprocal respect, and performed through mutual agreement that I am in control, and they will follow my instructions. I determine where I want to be touched, they respect my rules and start with one fi nger. My lover pleads for more which I tenderly allow, for our dichotomous amusement. Our play allows me to be dominant, and my partner submissive; roles that are equally important and dependent on each other. Subs and doms are active in constructing new and personalized systems of power. Powerplay can act to create new and personalized forms of pleasure. BDSM is carved into three forms: BD for bondage and discipline, DS for dominance and submission, and SM for sadism and Masochism. I understand the more general term of kink as the personalization and meshing together of these three components of BDSM. My relationship, while finitely in the realm of dominance and submission, occupies a space in kink between all of these forms.
Sadomasochism and dominance can fog the horizon line between violence and the erotic. The Leather Archives in Chicago flaunt the landscape of kink. The archive’s exhibits demonstrate the nuances in the ocean of arousal, as well as the rigid islands of exclusion within kink. The valleys are beautified from voices such as the lesbian sex mafia, a leather group comprised of non-cis males in the leather community, who have traditionally been left out. The mountains include photographs and interviews with the powerfully inspiring Mrs Muir, a professional dominatrix in New York City. Mrs. Muir describes how she prioritizes comfort while choosing attire to allow her transformation into a multitude of powerful characters. In her interview, she emphasizes her unchanging dominant persona and proclaims “In my dungeon, I am the law.” This landscape, The Leather Archives, echoes the voice in my head saying “Pleasure can be reclaimed.” Fear of BDSM from outsiders shrouds it in dark images of immorality, extremity, and bruises. Contrary to ideas from the heteropatriarchy, my kink is not destructive––morally or otherwise. The loudest voices stigmatize the gay roots of BDSM and isolate kink culture completely. Isn’t it ironic how they fear their own destruction? The patriarchy penetrates and governmental regulations work to create taboo surrounding bodies that aren’t masculine or don’t exhibit naturalized masculinity. Sex toys are objects used for physical pleasure. I call my lover my toy. Many sex toys are designed to emulate human genitalia yet I have come from the pure sensation of a tongue in my ear. Kink culture has been a long work to subvert the notion of sexy. Everyday objects that provide physical arousal and/or sexual bliss are named pervertables in The Leather Archives. Possibilities for sex are reimagined in a divergent context. Through the act of perversion, power is reclaimed. Sensory investigations of inviting objects can render anything sexy. Bliss is in the senses; here I find clear space of possibility for non-binary people in BDSM. Pleasure can be an idea. I fuck my lover’s ribs while biting their earrings. I am titillated by the sound of my teeth on metal.
As a dom, I am self-indulgent, both experiencing power and confronting pain. Pleasure is to be reclaimed. Dominants and submissives both seek release from larger systems of control, thrust upon those socialized under the constructs of power. In the 1994 book Public Sex: The Culture of Radical Sex, trans writer Pat Califia voices, “Sex discrimination and hate crimes against women don’t come from the leather community… They occur within contexts like industrial capitalism and marriage.” Through BDSM, I have learned how to encode power for my own gratification.
I have found love through de-contextualizing pleasure from power, I understand pleasure not as the relief from existential, societal, or repressed pain from sexual discrimination. As a dom, I have begun to accept the culturally complex substance of power in life. Outside of my relationship, I refuse to accept constructs which many people take for granted: Califa voices this by saying, “As if they had always existed, like gravity or continental drift.” Powerplay allows me to reclaim pleasure within my own terms. As a result, I consider the rigid and reeling systems of power in my life (gender, money, race) more actively. Systems under which queers have been forced to writhe––without saying yes.
Judith Butler asks the alluring question, “What kind of gender performance will enact and reveal the performativity of gender itself in a way that destabilizes the naturalized categories of identity and desire?” How peculiar, that creating our own binaries releases us from others.
I swim in murky pools of gender––who can I trust to know right from wrong? How am I expected to float with weights tied to my ankles? In what ways can my love ease the brash current of sexuality for those who swim alongside me? Where can I find a definition for queer?
Can my body perform dominance when the only listed synonyms for feminine are “ladylike,” “womanly,” “dainty,” “soft,” ”girlish,” ”tender,” ”female,” ”womanish,” and “effeminate”? We can come and we can become. Dominance and submission allow for a discursive, sexual and physical positioning of ourselves, in regards to gender. Pieces of our dynamic being, which are sexual and symbolic, act to psychologically stabilize gender within my relationship. My partner and I are both genderqueer, and by playing with dominance and submission we actively queer our queer experience.
Communication and care guide and empower us to love within roles we create. The reciprocity is apparent. My subby brat wants to be told what to do. We are attached to each other like muscle on bone: a mutually intertwined structure and support system. BDSM relationships occupy the in-betweens of complex paradoxes: pain and pleasure, safety and fear, desire and control.
For me, I embrace a compassionate authoritarianism over my sub; I tell them the rules. They are always helping me and in return, I teach them, reward them, and I too feel good. I protect my sub and in return, my little bitch is obedient, devoted. The safety and trust we share allow me to know my dominance will be guided by giving reward, instead of inducing fear. Fuck fear. Fear breeds destruction and shrouds kink culture in a fixed space of immoral darkness. My exploration of kink assimilates my sexual reconstruction.
My dom role forces me to consider my power directly. It kindly locates a place for me to harness and actualize my control, beyond my relationship. How I have come to understand dominance is outside of the dark myths of leather. I use domination as an escape from socialized definitions of who gets to imbibe the delectably dangerous substance of power, control to my body and power to myself. As a dom, I am my own lover. Incorporating this facet of consciousness into my sexual experiences clarifies my relationship between sex and life. I surrender to how submission functions to release my little bitch. I explore them through this knowledge in conjunction with accepting and performing dominance. As my lover flirts with gays in the leather archives, I roll my eyes although I like to watch. As my lover follows me around, to me it’s clear they are my little bitch. Interactions that are not sex itself are sexually relevant in my relationship. Submission and dominance clarify how I can decouple intimacy and sex while still celebrating the connectivity between the two.
My little bitch tells me submission is an active process. They follow my rules; rules that I put forth, to which they agree. They want to be good. They know what I want. Following the rules makes the mundane transform into a sexual realm within our daily experiences. Whether it is a mug of black coffee at 9:00 PM, or keeping track of my phone. They know what I want as they writhe under my body. I tightly hold them down. They take on a dramatic presence as a bratty babygirl while I suffocate their dick with my hand. Submission permits safety through powerlessness. Submission renders freedom for thrill in the release of control. Our actions enable a symbolic representation of love, completely outside of gender. We both crave the dick I do not have. Play becomes a space to create a new dichotomy of gender; one where it can be performed, extended, and subverted. When my little bitch submits to me, it feels good for them to be good for me. But they simultaneously shape the rough edges of my dominance with their tender desires and boundaries. I tell my lover what I want and ask them how they feel. I examine their desires and do not control how my lover feels for themself. They are submissive, but also empowered. During play, my sub is actively expressing; actively communicating, and actively behaving in order to seek release from queers’ allotted powerlessness. My lover is rewarded by the pleasure of being dominated; their pleasure. We come and we become. I tremble as I withdraw from pleasure. I feed them their cum. My lover wants to be held. I untangle their eyelashes and ponder the amazing glimmer. I see past the teary rims of their eyes. I peer deep into my reward—the pleasure they find in release. They softly quiver. They are to be a pretty girl; I dress them in my underwear.